Reserve to protect rare finless porpoises
A reserve is to be established for finless porpoises inNanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, to prevent their injury or depletion by the disturbance caused by the construction of a waterway, according to the Jiangsu Environmental Protection Department.
The reserve will be developed along a 45-kilometer reach of the Yangtze River at a cost of 128 million yuan ($20.5 million), the department said,
The Nanjing reserve will be twice as large as the one in the neighboring city of Zhenjiang, where construction work for the waterway has already taken place. The Zhenjiang reserve, established in 2003, is one of China’s most important reserves for the endangered freshwater and coastal mammals, which are thought to be rarer than the giant panda.
Surrounded by wetlands full of reeds, the reserve has clean water and very few industrial developments. Unauthorized fishing is strictly controlled, and the waters hold a wide range of fish to provide food for the porpoises.
“The Zhenjiang reserve is a very important ecological corridor to the gene exchange of different porpoise groups living in the upper and lower reaches of the Yangtze River,” said Wang Kexiong, an expert on porpoises at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Hydrobiology. “The reserve should not be destroyed.”
According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, CAS and theWorld Wide Fund for Nature, only about 1,040 finless porpoises live intheYangtzeRiverandtwo lakes linked to the waterway.
The number of finless porpoises is declining by 13.73 percent every year, according to reports inHunan Daily.
“The construction of the waterway will badly affect the habitat of the finless porpoise,” said ZhuXiaofeng, a worker at the Zhenjiang reserve. “They may die out in the near future.”
The white-flag dolphin, another rare species of freshwater mammal in the Yangtze River, was proclaimed “functionally extinct” in 2006 because the population was too small for the species to reproduce effectively.
The Jiangsu Environmental Protection Department acknowledged that the waterway project will narrow the waters for the porpoises, and that sound waves created during construction will affect the mammals’ echolocation and communication systems.
To prevent damage to the porpoises, only the right side of the waterway will be used when the construction work is completed, according to the local government. The left side will only be opened after experts have conducted a full investigation to guarantee that it’s safe for the rare species to breed there.